Cherellda Branch-McKenzie, a former guidance counselor at Riverland Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale, has filed a lawsuit against Broward County Public Schools, claiming the district failed to stop principal Oslay Gil from sexually harassing her.
According to the lawsuit, Gil harassed Branch-McKenzie on a daily basis. He touched her multiple times on her buttocks and would say, “Oh, I’m sorry, but it felt good!” He said several other offensive lines to her, including, “Let me get that right there,” and “Let me kiss you right there on your neck.”
“Mr. Gil told her that if he was contacted by other principals for a reference for her that he would provide a negative reference and that she was not going to be able to obtain a position as an assistant principal,” her lawyer, Melissa Mihok said.
Branch-McKenzie informed the school board about Gil’s behavior, but they didn’t take any disciplinary action because they said there wasn’t enough evidence. However, the district did discipline Gil in the past for similar incidents at the twok previous schools he worked at.
Gil served a five-day suspension in 2010 and then the district removed him as principal from Sunrise Middle School. Almost two dozen women accused Gil of sexually harassing them. One former teacher who asked to be kept anonymous said that she stopped teaching after the harassment she endured from Gil. She frequently hid under her desk and turned off the lights when working alone so that he wouldn’t notice she was in the classroom.
The former teacher said she wasn’t shocked to hear that the lawsuit is moving forward.
Nadine Drew, a spokesperson for Broward County Public Schools, released the following statement regarding the lawsuit:
“Broward County Public Schools is committed to providing working and learning environments that are free of harassment. Any allegation or complaint concerning harassment is taken seriously and investigated. Immediately upon receiving the complaint being referenced, the district’s Equal Educational Opportunities Department opened an investigation on Sept. 18, 2012. The findings of the investigation were reviewed by the Professional Standards Committee on June 5, 2013, which determined there was not enough evidence to support the allegations. Due to ongoing litigation, the district is unable to provide additional details or comments.”